Match Summary The Parramatta Eels have secured back to back wins after limping past an equally sub-standard St. George Illawarra Dragons by 19-18 at ANZ Stadium this afternoon in Sydney. Both teams had multiple chances to grab the game by the proverbial scruff of the neck but poor handling and poor execution let those chances get away.
The Eels looked the brighter side after an early Eric Grothe four-pointer, well converted from the touchline by Luke Burt. From there both teams traded errors and close calls, the closest being when Grothe retreated to bring the ball back from a Dragons kick, he spilled the ball allowing the Dragons to run away and score. Referee Sean Hampstead went to the video referee who made a stripped ball call on Grothe, resulting in a penalty to Parramatta, and enraging Dragons fans who firmly believed their team were robbed of a certain try.
Things got even worse for the aforementioned Dragons fans as the action switched to the opposite end of the field where a Brett Finch pass put Nathan Hindmarsh into a gap who in turn found a flying Luke Burt to put the ball down under the posts, handing the Eels a 12-0 lead close to halftime.
However, before the oranges were cut and served Mark Gasnier showed everyone what he is capable of by schooling the younger Jarryd Hayne and putting Chase Stanley in to score. Jamie Soward converted from wide out to make it a 12-6 game at half time.
St. George Illawarra looked likely to even the score early in the second half when Jamie Soward burst through tired Parramatta defence and set up Ben Creagh for a certain try, only to be bundled into touch by a superb Joel Reddy cover tackle. Jarryd Hayne scored soon after to give Parramatta a 12 point lead going into the final 30 minutes, however the Dragons staged a mini-comeback when Matt Cooper found space on the outside of Ben Smith to put Jason Nightingale in for a try. Soward converted to reduce the deficit to six with 20 minutes left on the clock.
The balance of the match went back and forth until rookie Eels hooker Matt Keating kicked a much needed 40-20 with 10 minutes to go, giving his side perfect field position for the experienced Brett Finch to pot a match-winning field goal. Matt Cooper scored a late try through one of many charge-downs during the match but it was too little too late as Parramatta came out on top in what both teams would describe as far from their best efforts.
Nathan Hindmarsh shone for the Eels, once again a tireless woker in defence, ably backed up by captain Nathan Cayless, and halves Finch and Feleti Mateo. Mark Gasnier did his best to inspire his men, well supported by Jamie Soward and Matt Cooper in attack. Next week the Eels host the hot Roosters while the Dragons come up against the Storm, fresh after a weekend off.
[b]Match Details[/b] Parramatta Eels 19 def St George Illawarra Dragons 18 Round 9 - May 11th, 2008 3:00pm Venue: ANZ Stadium Referee: Sean Hampstead Half time: Eels 12-6 Crowd: 16,313
Parramatta Eels 19 Tries: Eric Grothe, Luke Burt, Jarryd Hayne Field Goals: Brett Finch (1/1) Goals: Luke Burt (3/3) St George Illawarra Dragons 18 Tries: Chase Stanley, Jason Nightingale, Matt Cooper Goals: Jamie Soward (3/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels) 2 Points: Jarryd Hayne (Eels) 1 Point: Nathan Cayless (Eels)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Welcome to ANZ Stadium at Homebush where traditional rivals the Eels & Dragons meet in this Round 9 clash.
Mark Riddell will return from injury on the bench with Matt Keating coming in to start at hooker for the Eels. For the Dragons Kirk Reynoldson and Stuart Webb go back to the bench with Lagi Setu and Beau Scott to start.
0 min: A minute silence is observed for the late great supercoach Jack Gibson, who passed away on Friday night.
1 min: St. George-Illawarra kick off and we are underway.
2 min: The Dragons come up with a charge-down from a Luke Burt clearing kick to go onto the attack with their first use of the football.
5 min: Eels on the attack after a Gasnier penalty.
7 min: TRY Parramatta Eels Eric Grothe scores from close range to give Parramatta the early advantage, great lead up work from Mateo and Burt. Conversion attempt by Luke Burt successful. Parramatta Eels 6-0
11 min: Grothe is showing no signs of last weeks concussion, diffusing a dangerous bomb in competition with Nightingale.
15 min: Back to back penalties to the Dragons see them pressure the Eels defence.
21 min: Brendan Oake comes on to give NZ star Nathan Cayless a rest.
23 min: A great Gasnier pass puts Hornby in the clear, but the ball is lost in the next play the ball. The Eels knock on immediately to keep the pressure on themselves.
27 min: The Dragons drop the ball close to their own line and then give away a penalty. Eels are on the attack.
28 min: The pressure is relieved with a Parramatta forward pass called by the touch judge.
30 min: Jason Nightingale puts his body on the line to stop a potential Eels try.
31 min: VIDEO REF. Possible try to the Dragons. NO TRY! Penalty to Parramatta for a stripped ball.
33 min: TRY Parramatta Eels Finch puts Hindmarsh through who finds a flying Luke Burt to scoot away untouched under the sticks. Conversion attempt by Luke Burt successful. Parramatta Eels 12-0
34 min: Oake is felled by a Justin Poore high tackle, penalty sufficient.
41 min: Luke Burt gives the old Steeden a belt and we are into the 2nd half.
44 min: Another charge-down by the Dragons puts them on the attack, but a poor kick from Soward lets the Eels off the hook.
45 min: Soward intercepts to keep pressure on the Eels. An offside penalty follows to give the Dragons supreme field position.
49 min: The Dragons butcher a certain try after a Soward burst, with great corner defence by Joel Reddy. Eels will restart with the ball from the scrum.
51 min: VIDEO REF. Checking for obstruction for a possible Eels try to Jarryd Hayne.
51 min: TRY Parramatta Eels Jarryd Hayne scores for the Eels against the run of play. Conversion attempt by Luke Burt successful. Parramatta Eels 18-6
57 min: The Dragons look to have no direction in attack, with Jason Ryles getting caught with the ball on the last tackle.
58 min: The match is fast becoming a mistake-fest, with both teams failing to treat the ball with any respect.
65 min: Yet another charge-down by the Dragons backfires after they are bundled into touch.
71 min: The match is there for taking for either side with less than 10 minutes to go.
72 min: Matt Keating kicks a great 40-20 to give the Eels every chance to put this game beyond doubt. The small crowd comes alive with the "PARRA!" chant.
77 min: Jarryd Hayne loses the ball close to his own line to set up a dramatic finish.
78 min: The Dragons kick on the first tackle, Eric Grothe recovers but succumbs to the tackle resulting in a goal-line dropout.
79 min: VIDEO-REF: Would you believe ANOTHER charge-down by the Dragons could result in a Dragons try to Matt Cooper.
79 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Matt Cooper streaks away to score after the seventh Dragons charge-down of the match. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. Parramatta Eels 19-18
80 min: FULL TIME. Parramatta come out on top after a scrappy affair, a Brett Finch field goal the difference in the end.